Accessory Dwellings

A one-stop source about accessory dwelling units, multigenerational homes, laneway houses, ADUs, granny flats, in-law units…

2019 ADU Tour Project Profiles

Quick links to the ADU project profiles

1) Tony Mills

2) 7120 Vancouver LLC

3) Arthur Donaghey and Gena Hutton

4) Anthony and Becca Ayon

5) Darren and Damara Bartlett

6) Tamara Warren

7) Gypsy Tucker

8) Schuyler Smith

9) Schuyler Smith

10) Chad and Lindsi Smith

11) Teresa Goldfarb

12) Ady Leverette and Chris Jones

13) Trish Trout and Kat Trout

14) Joe Mansfield and Raechel Frogner

15 ) Robert Liberty and Khanh Tran

16) Joshua & Keely Montgomery

17) Cynthia Jimes

Mostly accessible: These ADU have no steps leading inside, and have a bathroom on the ground level
Multigen: These properties are currently being for multigenerational household use

1) Tony Mills

 

 

 

I was rebuilding my garage and decided to put an ADU above it. It went through many, many designs, as my neighbors had a say in the development of my ADU as well. I used every option I could to have the most amount of space in my ADU. You will see How I used dead space under the bed. I was able to use My designs in the process.

Type of ADUAttached New Construction (“Bump out ADU”)
Architect/DesignerHomeowner-design/Architect, Brandon Yoder-Builders Design
General ContractorShelter Solutions, https://www.shelter-solutions.net
Heating SystemDuctless Minisplit, Electric Cadet in Bathroom
When did you start the design work?2/2014
When did you submit the plans to the City?3/2016
When did you start construction8/2016
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?4/2017
Total Square FootageADU is 380 sq ft

 

Garage-200 sq ft/Workshop 240 sq ft

Total for Project=820 sq ft

Total Cost (including sweat equity)$157K
Cost/Square Foot

$191  (including total addition)

Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)Tore the existing 1932 Garage/Foundation down and recycled almost everything. Cost $1200 for removal and permit
Other special project costs

Sewer Pump in ground floor=$1625

Land Survey=$3100

Concrete Work for a new Sidewalk-Approach=$2900

Adjustment for the Easement=$1964

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

Short term rental

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

I attendee Kol Peterson’s All-Day ADU Class, went to every ADU Tour in Portland. I asked a lot of questions regarding “My” properties use, while not destroying neighboring properties. When I purchased this 1923 Bungalow 22 years ago, I had an idea of rebuilding a portion of it for a Mother-in-Law type structure. But was unsure how to accomplish that. When the ideas of ADU’s started in the Portland Area I looked into every avenue I could. The ADU was not even in our environment at that time. But I persisted and I built a second floor under the original house, with 3 new bedrooms, a Full Bathroom, Laundry Facilities, and I was the “General” Contractor for that portion of my remodel. And then I began this process of building this ADU. I decided to use Joe at Shelter Solutions for the add-on-Garage/Workshop/ADU, portion of that remodel.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

BDS made me go through 13 different phases of my plans for the addition. Brandon Yoder worked with me to keep the changes up to date. I also paid BDS $1964 for an Adjustment to have the project be “On” the property line in the back and 6″ off the property line on the West.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

My Return on Investment will be building a Retirement nest egg. I included the build of this ADU into my House Mortgage. So my 15 year Loan will be paid of in about 9 years, with the proceeds of the ADU. So it is a Win-Win for me, the City, and my Community.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

It uses an Energy Efficient Split Heat/AC unit. It has an On-Demand Gas Water Heater. It uses all LED lighting. I included as many windows as I could possibly put in it, to capture natural light and heating properties.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

I’m Happy with the Covered Porch off of the ADU. I’m very happy with the amount of light and windows. But MOST of all the way that it looks like it has always been here, a part of my original house.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

I was very proud of my Contractor and his team of professionals that worked tirelessly to get as much of what I wanted, out of this project.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

I wish the City restrictions were as Lax as they are now. And I wish it could have been BIGGER!!

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

I would have built this sooner.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

How LONG each step takes. The entire process from an ADU idea until it was finished took about 6 years. I took Kol Peterson ADU Building Class. I went to 2-3 ADU Tours and talked to many people. I wanted something like this a long time ago, but it was not available. Glad the City is finally allowing these projects.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

Have a Clear Understanding of what you want to accomplish. Be it a space for extended family, relative visits, mother in law type space, short-term or long-term rental. Make sure that your ideas match what the Cities Restrictions are. Have an open mind, because some things are truly impossible. Your own imagination can push through some of those rather insurmountable obstacles.

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2) 7120 Vancouver LLC

Believe in providing maximum flexibility for future homeowners – who can use the ADU has an additional living space, home office, rental property, or AirBnB.

ADU Tour Organizer’s note: This is a professionally-developed whole site new construction redevelopment. This townhouse development has 10 fee-simple homes, two of which include ground-level ADUs.

Type of ADUAttached to a “for sale” townhouse
Architect/Designer
Waechter Architecture; waechterarchitecture.com
General Contractor

Yorke & Curtis: yorkeandcurtis.com

Developer: projectpdx.com

Heating SystemDuctless mini split
When did you start the design work?6/2016
When did you submit the plans to the City?6/2017
When did you start construction4/2018
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?3/2019
Total Square Footage361
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$126K
Cost/Square Foot$349
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)None 
Other special project costsLand use fees including lot division included in the overall cost.
Certification & Energy ScoresEarth Advantage Platinum and EPS

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

The ADU is in an attached “for sale” townhome that is currently on the market for sale.

 

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

Early assistance meetings with the City of Portland.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

Land division process and a long permitting period at the City of Portland.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

Indicators on our ‘return on investment’ would be the ability to sell the home with the ADU more quickly and/or appeal to buyers that are looking for an ADU. This home is currently on the market for sale.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

The townhomes in Origami are Earth Advantage Platinum certified. Earth Advantage Home Certification is a third-party, high performance certification program for new single-family homes developed to ensure homeowners that a certified home is energy-efficient, health and resource-wise. Homes are aiming to be 30% more energy efficiency than a code required building. This focus on efficiency results in substantial savings on utility costs.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

The size and design of the kitchen that maximizes the living space. The floor to ceiling windows around the corner of the ADU make it a light bright space to live in and the fact we were able to get a closet into the space.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

The modern clean design with visual access to the streetscape and landscaping.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

Nothing

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

 

The hope was to put an ADU in each of the twelve homes in the development. We would have liked to have figured out a way to do that between the land division requirements and the permitting process. Changes are needed to the zoning regulations in this zone.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

It is not easy to fit a home and an ADU into the minimum lot size for this zone and still have the required off-street parking needed to meet the zoning regulations.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

It is difficult to build townhomes and ADU’s on the same lot in an R2 zone. We would recommend going to R1 zone or a zone with higher density limits rather than taking advantage of density bonuses in the R2 zone – that is – until the City has better refined the R2 zone to match better with the lot division regulations.

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3) Arthur Donaghey and Gena Hutton

We had purchased a house on a corner lot specifically so we could build a detached ADU that would face on a different street than the main house. We thought that layout would make the ADU feel like a completely separate property – and it does. We built the ADU to have it as a rental property.

Type of ADUDetached New Construction
Architect/DesignerKeyan Mizani of eMZed Architecture LLC, www.emzedarchitecture.com
General ContractorArthur Donaghey Construction LLC., www.arthurdonaghey.com
Heating SystemDuctless mini splits. Two outside heads, three inside heads.
When did you start the design work?2/2016
When did you submit the plans to the City?10/2016
When did you start construction12/2016
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?7/2017
Total Square Footage800
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$203K
Cost/Square Foot$253
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)$28K (Note: I am a licensed general contractor and paid myself about a 15% GC fee, so this is not actually sweat equity)
Other special project costsWe wasted $10,000 searching for an old cesspool that had been removed without a permit. The City inspector was extremely strict. We dug a hole 20′ by 20′ wide by 14′ deep to prove the cesspool wasn’t there and had to fill it in with 3/4- gravel compacted in lifts.

We paid the $6,000 for the separate water meter and had the new water line bored underground so we didn’t have to replace the sidewalk or the retaining wall or disturb the landscaping.

We connected the sewer for the ADU to the sewer in the basement of the original house so we didn’t have to pay a sewer connection fee.

 

 

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

We currently live there, but the ADU was built as a long-term rental and that’s how we’ll use it in the future

What different ways do you plan to use the ADU over time?

We might convert the property to condominiums if we decide to sell the ADU and keep the main house. 

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

We had already built three ADUs so there was very little for us to do. We met with our neighbors to discuss the impact of construction on them and establish communication with them in case their were any issues for them during construction.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

No significant issues. We had built this floor plan two times previously, so getting the house plan approved was easy. It’s a corner lot so the ADU has street frontage so access was easy.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

In terms of a ‘cash on cash’ return on investment, the rental income from the ADU generates very strong positive cash flow. Because the ADU fits the neighborhood so well and sits on the lot perfectly, part of the return on investment is the happiness of having created something so beautiful.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

We installed the most efficient heating and cooling system – a ductless mini split.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

This design is absolutely delightful to live in. I particularly enjoy the great room floor plan with a half bath on the first floor. There is a front porch that faces the street so I can chat with my neighbors plus a private covered back patio so that I can be outside and choose my level of social interaction. And this house has a tremendous amount of storage space.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

I love the way this house looks and how well it lives. I am especially proud of all of the clever storage both inside the house and outside that the architect and I created.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

Not unhappy with any aspect of the house. I will change a few things the next time we build this design:

  • Make the bathroom door an outswing.
  • Change the fiberglass tub to a model that has corner shelves.
  • Expand the half bath to allow for a bigger sink.
  • Make one of the lofts one foot taller for easier access.
  • Add one outlet downstairs to plug the vacuum into.
What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

I had the same workers finishing a different ADU when they started excavating this one. Next time I will have them finish one ADU before beginning the next.

I learned that City BDS staff has access to records about cesspools that are not on portlandmaps.com. Next time I will have them research those records before we apply for a building permit.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

Working to prove that the cesspool wasn’t there was an expensive and surprising lesson.

At the very end of the project the City inspector made us remove a curb cut for the original house and replace the curb. That was an unexpected expense because the requirement came after we had done all of our concrete work. Next time I will be aware of that possible requirement.

It isn’t surprising but I learned that every ADU we build will have a storage shed in the yard. And the shed should match the design of the house.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

1. Definitely have the City staff research cesspools and septic tanks on site before you submit plans.

2. Keep $5,000 in a contingency fund until the very end.

3. Bore your water line underground.

4. Get to know your neighbors after you have a building permit. They will be impacted by the construction process and having someone living next to them. Building relationship with them at the beginning of the process will have minimize social problems later.

5. Build that shed. Everyone has bikes or snow boards or stuff they need to store.

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4) Anthony and Becca Ayon

We moved to Portland partially because we were excited about the progressive zoning laws allowing ADU’s and tiny houses. We had been considering downsizing into a small home for a few years, and love the simplicity and financial freedom it could bring, so our plan is to move into the ADU and rent the main house for passive income. We also love living in community and are excited to create that within the shared garden space, communal patios, etc. Portland truly helps people to shape their lifestyle into what they want it to be!

ADU Tour Organizer’s note: There will be a tiny house on wheels at this site, which will also be available for touring.

Type of ADUDetached Garage conversion
Architect/DesignerBecca Ayon – Designer
General ContractorN/A
Heating SystemElectric Cadet Heater
When did you start the design work?1/2018
When did you submit the plans to the City?7/2018
When did you start construction1/2019
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?6/2019
Total Square Footage370
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$150K
Cost/Square Foot$405
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)$10K in design fees
Other special project costsNone
How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

We are going to move into the ADU and rent out the main house for supplemental income.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

I (Becca) am a designer and was excited to take on this small project and customize the ADU to be comfortable and meet our needs for the next few years. During the planning stages, I visited the BDS permit office several times to ask questions — there are a lot of intricacies to consider with ADU’s that are very site specific, so I highly recommend going in to talk with them early on. I also consulted what resources are available – there is an ADU guide from BDS online, FAQ on ADU design firm sites, the book Backdoor Revolution, and of course accessorydwellings.org.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

We have a through-lot (meaning we have a street at both ends of our lot) which meant we had to abide by the front setback rule of 40′-0″ from the property line in order to build a new ADU, or else apply for a variance. We were up against a deadline to get our permit, so we did not have time for the variance. Luckily we had an existing garage, which was allowed to be converted in place and did not need to comply with the set back requirements.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

That is a good question. Our goal is for the property to pay for itself over the course of the next 15 years, so that we can be mortgage free and able to scale back our full-time jobs. It would have been nearly impossible to realize this goal if we were unable to build an ADU and move into it. Most of what we make on rental income will go towards paying the mortgage with the goal of minimizing the amount we pay out-of-pocket to achieve our 15 year goal.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

Our ADU was built primarily with conventional construction techniques with plans to slowly convert some of the systems to be more resilient. We plan to connect the gutter to a rainwater collection system for watering the orchard in the adjacent side yard. We also plan to add a diversion valve to allow water from the kitchen sink to divert to the landscape instead of the sewer. Solar power would also be great in a couple of years. As we collect some passive income from renting the house, we can invest in these systems, and potentially convert some of the main house systems, as well.

Our ceiling, flooring and cabinets are all made with baltic birch plywood which is a sustainably sourced wood as it covers a wide territory and regrows quickly. The idea to use plywood as a main finish material came from the huts we stayed in along the Great Walks in New Zealand. This simple material is quite beautiful and is used for many of the surfaces in these huts (including the floor!). We have a durable, low VOC finish on the flooring, and also recognize and embrace the imperfections of plywood. 

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

The Panoramic Door is one of our favorite features of our ADU– allowing for indoor / outdoor living and increasing our living space substantially on nice days. We’re also really happy with the vaulted the ceilings, and flexible layout (our furniture can be rearranged to accommodate dinner for 8).

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

We love how our ADU will encourage communal living with the other homes on the lot — the main house, the ADU and our friend’s tiny house on wheels all open up to a central, lush patio space that is currently under construction.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

We’re really happy with the design. If we had been allowed to, we would have loved to have windows on the south side for better light and passive solar heating, however the existing location of the garage did not allow for this as the south wall is within the setback and faces the adjacent neighbor.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

If we had more time, I would have applied for the setback variance to give us more options on the build, but we are very happy with our plans. Plus, having a constraint often results in creative solutions.

 We also struggled with change orders from our Contractor, which ended up being 20% over budget. We had planned on a standard 10% contingency– so in the future we would likely not go with the lowest bid as it comes back in a much more painful way through change orders multiple times a week and financial stress throughout the project. 

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

The zoning laws for ADUs can be complex, confusing and at times conflict with the requirements of other building officials like the plans examiners (building code).

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

Do your due diligence — go to the permit office to talk about your project before paying for design work or investing in any one idea. Get creative with financing if you need to! We used a construction loan with Umpqua Bank which allows you to borrow against the future value of the property.

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5) Darren and Damara Bartlett

 

We wanted to build an ADU because we had a beautiful full-height dungeon built out of granite rock walls under our house. We had a vision of opening it up and making a wonderful space filled with contemporary ideas blended with the history of the 120 year old house. Also, we needed the space for visiting family and friends.

Type of ADUBasement conversion
Architect/DesignerGusto! Design Studio http://www.gustodesignstudio.com/about-1/
General ContractorOwen Gabbert, LLC http://owengabbertllc.com/all-work
Heating SystemRadiant hydronic floors
When did you start the design work?6/2016
When did you submit the plans to the City?7/2017
When did you start construction9/2017
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?6/2018
Total Square Footage800 sq ft
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$380K
Cost/Square Foot$475
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)$0K
Other special project costsWe spent significantly on a few areas:restoration and re-pointing of the granite walls (apx $25,000)

 

seismic retrofit (apx $40,000)

removing the existing concrete slab and insulating (apx $25,000)

moving and re-routing all upstairs utilities (apx $30,000)

creation of large terraces and huge windows to bring light in (apx $40,000)

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

Our ADU was built with the primary intention of housing family and friends when they come to visit. And they come frequently! We have family visiting from out of the country up to 8+ weeks per year. Additionally, since both of us are from out of state, we have friends visiting frequently as well.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

We attended an ADU tour, but in the end we simply jumped straight in with the hope that we would figure it out as we went. We had a great architect and contractor that were very experienced in the process, and that saved us from many mistakes.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

The most difficult thing to get past zoning was that we wanted to retain the original granite block walls of the basement. This did not meet energy code, so we fought for an exemption due to the historical nature of the 1898 house. We were able to keep approximately 40 linear feet of granite wall under the condition that we “over-insulate” the remaining portion of the project.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

It is our forever home. We do not think of it as a financial investment. We spared no expense to make it a space we are proud of, and a space that will last another 120 years.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

Not only is it a small space, but much of it is underground, and within footprint of the existing house. That’s about as green as you can get.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

We are most happy with the interplay between the historical aspects of the house (large wood beams, granite walls, reclaimed wood) and the modern design and construction of the new space within it.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

We set out to design a space that didn’t feel like a basement at all. Large windows, terraced landscapes, hiding of all the upstairs utilities (no sheetrock soffits running through the space), warm lighting, and beautiful finishes.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

We chose to make our only TV room in the ADU, and due to it being occupied for so much of the year, we no longer have access to this.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

I would have liked to do all this work when the market wasn’t red-hot. Due to this, I think the project went longer (and cost more) than it would have otherwise.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

We were surprised how complex the project can get on a space that requires so much engineering and involves a highly complex, staged construction schedule. One thing goes wrong, and the project risked falling into a tailspin.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

If your intention is to live in and use the space for years or decades to come, put the extra money into it and build a space that you are proud of. We use this space frequently and love it as much as we love the historic main house.

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6) Tamara Warren 

I built an ADU because one day I want to be able to live in one house mortgage free while renting the other house out.

Type of ADUDetached, new construction
Architect/DesignerWillie Dean, Ground Up Design Works, http://www.groundupdesignworks.com
General ContractorCallum Clark. Clarkworks. callum@clarkworksdesign.com. Pat Hickey. Hickey Construction patrick1012@hotmail.com
Heating Systemmini split in main living area, cadet heaters in both bedrooms
When did you start the design work?5/2016
When did you submit the plans to the City?8/2016
When did you start construction6/2017
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?3/2018
Total Square Footage711 sq ft
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$208K
Cost/Square Foot$292
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)None
Other special project costs

stem wall due to alleyway grade higher than property-$3K

landscape due to stem wall build including excavation for wall installation, boulder wall, drainage, steps and pathways- $5.5K

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

Long term rental

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

I went to many ADU tours and took a workshop from Kol. I kept talking to people for many years, that had built or were in the process of building and how to finance the project. Talked and had meetings throughout with my building team. Spent many hours searching for the different materials and fixtures I wanted in the home.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

No problems.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

Well, eventually there might be a return on investment. The cost to build the house was way more than I had expected. Currently and for many years to come I’m just working on paying down the end contractor’s bill, credit card advances and home equity line of credit.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

The main green/sustainable feature of the project are the orientation and roof design. The main windows and skylight of the house face south. This provides excellent day lighting allowing the house to work without the use of electric light from sunrise to sunset. It also provides a generous connection from inside to out with good views of the alley tree canopy, the yard and the sky which is good for the mental sustainability of the inhabitants. The large triangular roof overhang provides shade and weather cover for the west facing entry door and south facing bedroom widows. It helps keep the bedroom cool during the summer by providing shade during the hottest part of the summer when the sun is at its highest angle in the sky. The exposed concrete floor is also a sustainable feature. By using the concrete floor as the finish floor we eliminated the need to use a secondary flooring material which saved on cost and invested energy and therefore lowered the overall carbon footprint of the material budget for the building. 

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

Oh gosh I am so thrilled with so many aspects of this design! Willie did a fantastic job. The roof design is a special feature to this house and I have to give Willie props for this one! It creates a covered area outside of the house. During the summer it shields the front of the house from the heat. And, it just looks super cool and creative, unlike any other designs I have seen.

I insisted on having two bedroom, a storage space, vaulted ceilings and plenty of natural light coming through. This home feels so much bigger than the square footage implies. The storage space above the first bedroom is accessed through the upstairs bedroom closet and then through a hobbit door. This house is light filled with so many amazing windows. My most favorite is the east facing picture window next to the stairs. There is a skylight just above the top bedroom sliding barn door opening . This sliding door opens up the bedroom to the rest of the house so the resident can feel like they are more connected to the rest of the house.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

Color, texture and the artful feeling… I love color and vibrancy in spaces. For me, it brings life to a dwelling. Budget would not allow hardwoods throughout which I was actually okay with because this meant I was able to create another color palette on the floor with the finished concrete floors. After many coats, a deep terracotta concrete finish on the floor in the main living area, bathroom and kitchen were revealed. It turned out amazing! This inspiration paved the way for the color choices on the walls, the color of wood used on the stairs, all the light fixtures and other finishes in the kitchen. The exposed beams in the kitchen really tie all the elements together. In the two bedrooms, I used cork flooring that has a unique pattern and tinted reddish brown finish. They are so incredibly soft when walking on and just a beautiful aesthetic element to the ocean blue and sage bedrooms. And not to forget the vibrant colors, blue and green, on the outside of the ADU, inspired by my trip to Ireland years before. I hired a color consultant in Portland to help support and clarify my color ideas.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

There is nothing that I am unhappy with about the design of my ADU.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

I would of taken a more honest look at the cost of the whole build. I am the type of person who believes, it all works out in the end, and it did! But, I had to go through a considerable amount of stress when multiple times during the build there was not enough money. I manifested money by refinancing my home and taking the equity out, HELOC (home equity line of credit) and many credit card chase advances. And there is still an end bill with the contractors I am paying off.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

I was surprised about the amount of time and energy it took to start the process and see it all the way through. As a single person, I really appreciated both my contractors, Pat and Callum, and architect, Willie, for helping me through this process. I asked many questions and relied on them for advice when I was stumped and often stressed about the many choices one has to make when designing and building an ADU.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

Don’t give up! I had this vision 5 years before the design started in 2016. My intention for the build of the ADU was to have a home my son and I could live in and rent the other out and live mortgage free. With the odds stacked against me I was turned away for years from many financial institutions for being self employed, not owner occupied, not making enough income and having too much debt. I just kept holding the vision and believing nothing would stop me. I continued my vision and attended Kol’s workshops and ADU tours for many years. I finally figured out what I needed to do piece by piece, year by year, to finally qualify to refinance my home and start the ADU design and build. As mentioned above, I would of taken a more detailed approach with the financial budget and been more realistic about the size of the house I was able to afford. Yes, it all worked out but as everyone says, “it costs way more than you think.” Overall, I am happy with my ADU, actually totally thrilled about it! I often pinch myself and say, “I can’t believe I pulled it off!” So my advice, don’t give up, be realistic about the money you have and the size you are building and plan for it to be more money than you except. Best of luck.

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7) Gypsy Tucker

Although dreaming about designing and living in a small house was a hobby of mine for a long time, I didn’t think of it as something I could really do. I was too busy with raising kids and with my job to think of taking on such a project. Then in 2016 my next-door neighbor had a major house fire, which started in their garage – my garage was damaged as well (all the humans and pets were ok!). After many months of negotiating the insurance and rebuilding, my neighbor decided to build an ADU in the place where the garage had been. Meanwhile, my kids got older and my youngest was on his way to college – I didn’t need a 3-bedroom house any more. Well then, I thought, rather than repair my garage, why not go for it as well, and build the little house of my dreams?!

 

Type of ADUDetached new construction
Architect/DesignerMitchell Snyder Architecture, msnyderarch.com
General ContractorSwan Contractors LLC – Project lead was Andrew Morphis, now of Roost Homes LLC http://www.roosthomespdx.com
Heating SystemDuctless minisplit – 2 heads
When did you start the design work?4/2016
When did you submit the plans to the City?2/2017
When did you start construction4/2017
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?10/2017
Total Square Footage794
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$226K
Cost/Square Foot$284
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)

$4K total

$2K for custom handrail (designed, built and installed by my dad)

$1K for custom charging cabinet (designed by me and built by a friend)

$1K for installing the Feeney railings

Other special project costs

Garage demolition: $3K.

Running sewer line approximately 100 feet from NE 40th Ave: Some added costs
How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

It is my primary residence

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

I read everything I could find online, and in the process of that came across Kol’s one-day ADU workshop which I registered for – that was so helpful and really gave me the tools I needed to get started. Then there were all those hours and hours of dreaming about what my house would be like.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

Overall the process was smooth. Having an excellent architect who was familiar with the requirements and with BDS in general, and who created an excellent and thorough set of plans, made the permitting process easy. The only difficulty we had was with the balcony railing: My dad is a sculptor, designer and blacksmith and wanted to create a custom metal railing. We had several weeks of delay trying to get a custom design approved, but in the end we would have had to make too many modifications to the design. We eventually gave up and I went with a commercially produced railing.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

The investment was quite a bit more than I anticipated. I was originally thinking of something much more modest, but the project grew as it went along. In the end, even though it was scary acquiring that much debt, I don’t regret the scope of the project. After I’ve paid it back and entered my semi-retirement, then ask me again how I feel about my ROI!

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

Even though the mini-split provides cooling as well as heat, I was careful about the placement of windows to maximize air flow so I wouldn’t have to use the cooling feature very much during the summer.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

I can’t pick one! The feature wall constructed with the vintage ship-lap reclaimed from the garage demolition; all the southern exposure that lets in winter light; the charging cabinet that I designed to house all my electronics; the custom forged iron handrail that my dad made for me.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

I had an idea about a gracious, simple space that shows its bones  – and now it exists in the world! 

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

The flat porch roof required a waterproof membrane in order to be warrantied, rather than the standing seam metal roof that was in the original design.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

Try to have the builder involved earlier in the design process. I’m not sure *how* I would do that, because having final plans for builders to bid on was a great way to select a builder, but there were things I would have changed about the plans based on the builder’s suggestions if the plans hadn’t been finalized already.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

It takes a lot of people to build a house. I had no idea! I’m so grateful to all the tradespeople and craftspeople who put their experience and sweat into my home.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

If you need to save money somewhere, scrimp on things that you can easily change later such as light fixtures, appliances and landscaping. Pick two or three things in the design and/or the more permanent finishes that you will splurge on and love, and go basic on the rest – this will save you money *and* let the things that you’re most excited about shine. And put radiant heating under your bathroom floor, it’s the bomb!

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8) Schuyler Smith

There were a lot of reasons for us to build an ADU. It is an investment property but also we hope to have friends as renters to have some form of community, even if they are rentals. Being a designer of ADUs there were a lot of savings to be had and also ideas to try out. We initially looked at some pretty crazy ideas but ended up going a more conservative route.

ADU Tour Organizer’s note: ADU #8 and #9 are adjacent to one another on a flag lot.

Type of ADUDetached, new construction
Architect/DesignerSchuyler Smith, Polyphon Architecture & Design LLC, polyphon.com
General ContractorSwan Building Inc, Sam Swan, default.com (For the shell of the building, building paper and drywall)
Heating Systemductless mini-split
When did you start the design work?6/2017
When did you submit the plans to the City?5/2018
When did you start construction10/2018
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?7/2019
Total Square Footage798
Total cost (including sweat equity)$190K
Cost/Square Foot238
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)I took on the role of general contractor after Sam built the initial shell to building paper on the exterior and drywall on the interior. I also did (with the help of friends and family) a lot of the work such as the roofing, siding, interior painting and trim. I also designed the ADUs. Sweat equity would probably account for $40K.
Other special project costs

There was an existing cesspool on the property which needed to be decommissioned. Unfortunately it was quite deep, under an decommissioned oil storage tank, as well as the sewer line. ($2K)

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

The ADU will be used as a long term rental.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

Since we design a lot of ADUs at Polyphon (where I’m a Principal), I didn’t make many special preparations as it had been at the back of my mind for a while. I did check with PBOT to make sure the ADU would not trigger a street improvement as we are on an unimproved roadway. I also put two palm trees that were in the project site area on Craigslist for free and someone came and dug them up so they didn’t have to be cut down.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

Biggest issue was the cesspool onsite that needed to be decommissioned. Not so much a BDS issue than a site issue as it was quite far down.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

We feel like there is a multi-faceted return on investment. There is the rental income and added value to the property, but also realizing the value of the underused bit of property and my being able to do the design services. Lastly, but not least, the possibility of moving in friends or family is a great benefit.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

There are several green features in the ADU. There are some upgraded air sealing details at the roof, the ADU has an ERV w/ two supplies and two returns, the walls are 2x4s w/ 2″ of exterior continuous insulation (rockwool), the structure generally doubles as the finishes reducing materials and finish costs, the aluminium roof has a lot of green advantages (recyclability, reflectance, etc….) and there are outlets to route grey-water for irrigation use.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

I was trying to design something that was very simple on the outside but also had a lot of visual interest. I’m happy with how the exterior is just two simple forms but the living area has a lot of dynamism w/ multiple levels and ceiling heights.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

I’m pretty familiar with the ADU rules so I feel like I was able to maximize the amount of space I could squeeze out of that 800 sq ft. At the same time I feel like it still fits the neighborhood and doesn’t feel out of scale.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

I went with a less expensive door at the front entry and wished I’d ponied up and spent the extra money to have to match the windows.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

There were a lot of beams and wood decking on the 2nd floor which had to be insulated and covered up. I wish there had been a way to leave this exposed at the porch ceiling.

What was the most surprising thing your learned during your design/build process?

I’m surprised just how much of the project cost typically comes after the shell portion. I know that bathrooms, kitchens and finishes can get expensive but there are ways to reduce those costs by taking things on oneself or finding creative solutions.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

Stake out the footprint and really try to get a sense of how much space you are willing to give up of your yard and potential sun access. This is a great way to visualize the impact of a new structure on your property.

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9) Schuyler Smith

There were a lot of reasons for us to build an ADU. It is an investment but will also be a place for my mother-in-law who has been living with us for the past decade or so. Being a designer of ADUs there were a lot of savings to be had and also ideas to try out. We initially looked at some pretty crazy ideas but ended up going a more conservative route due to the ADU regulations.

ADU Tour Organizer’s note: ADU #8 and #9 are adjacent to one another on a flag lot.

Type of ADUDetached new construction
Architect/DesignerSchuyler Smith, Polyphon Architecture & Design LLC, polyphon.com
General ContractorSwan Building Inc, Sam Swan, default.com (For the shell of the building, building paper and drywall)
Heating Systemductless mini-split and radiant electric spot heaters
When did you start the design work6/2017
When did you submit the plans to the City?5/2018
When did you start construction10/2018
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?7/2019
Total Square Footage445
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$145K
Cost/Square Foot$326
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)I took on the role of general contractor after Sam built the initial shell to tyvek on the exterior and drywall on the interior. I also did (with the help of friends and family) a lot of the work such as the roofing, siding, interior painting and trim. I also designed the ADUs. I’d estimate about $35K between the design, management and labor.
Other special project costsWe decided to install a PV solar array on this one. This is on the same meter as the existing house so we will also benefit from the array. After Energy Trust rebates and Federal Tax Credits the array is estimated to cost about $7K
How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

My mother-in-law will live in the ADU.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

When we designed the house which is on the property several years ago, I imagined that an ADU would go in that spot eventually. We originally stubbed out a large conduit from the house and had planned on using the house’s tankless water heater to serve the ADU as well. We ended up dropping this idea though for a few reasons. I also up-sized the electrical panel knowing it would eventually serve an ADU as well.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

There were not any major issues. Having designed a lot of ADUs I’m quite familiar with the code so was aware of the process and potential hurdles.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

We feel like there is a multi-faceted return on investment. There is the added value to the property, but also realizing the value of the underused bit of property and my being able to do the design services. Also, having my mother-in-law live with us has been a great help over the years which is hard to put a value on.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

There are several green features in the ADU. There are upgraded air sealing details at the roof and walls, there is an ERV, the walls are 2x4s w/ 2″ of exterior continuous insulation (rockwool), the aluminium roof has a lot of green advantages (recyclability, reflectance, etc….) and there is a PV solar array on the roof.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

I really like the sun porch and living area looking into the laurel.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

This is kind of wonky but I’m proud of the utilization of the setback codes. Typically this lot would require 10’ setbacks but due to the size of the structure, we were able to reduce those to 4’, which gave us a lot more area to use in this corner of the property.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

The crawlspace foundation. We typically do slabs on grade (as a design firm) but I wanted to try a crawlspace out for this one. It lifts the house too far up off the ground for my liking and creates a lot of finish work at the floor.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

I might have made this structure a little smaller actually. I am well aware of the value of a larger structure as the additional size over 400 sq ft is usually quite a bit cheaper than the initial build kernel. There is also just one shot at utilizing this additional opportunity for development so you want to make the most of it. It is actually a fairly small ADU but could have been smaller as we cherish our outdoor space. We had to take down a number of trees to clear the site, none of which were of note, but it was still a painful process.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

How many decisions come up during the construction process that just can’t be anticipated during design.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

Stake out the footprint and really try to get a sense of how much space you are willing to give up of your yard and potential sun access. This is a great way to visualize the impact of a new structure on your property.

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10) Chad and Lindsi Smith

Income.

Type of ADUDetached new construction
Architect/DesignerJon Luke at JLM Design Studio http://www.jlmdesignstu.com
General ContractorSpaceKraft Construction – spacekraftadu.com Benjamin Weizel
Heating SystemRadiant hydronic floor heating downstairs and electrical cadets in the upstairs bedrooms
When did you start the design work?11/2017
When did you submit the plans to the City?12/2017
When did you start construction2/2018
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?10/2018
Total Square Footage796 sq ft
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$202K
Cost/Square Foot$254
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)Some interior painting, minor landscaping- $2K
Other special project costs

Separate water meter = $6,200

Demo two car garage, deck, concrete, breezeway = $4,000

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

Long term rental

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

Talked to people that have been through the process. The builder got permits. Had a garage sale. Attended Kol’s adu course and tour.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

No issues.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

It will/has created long term steady income, somebody else is paying back to loan. Making the investment now will pay for itself in the future.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

Hydronic heating

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

The layout, 20′ vaulted ceiling, heated concrete floors, storage under the stairs with exterior door, covered patio, the ADU lives like a separate house from the main house, shed.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

It all worked out as planned.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

Nothing.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

Nothing

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

The whole process wasn’t as difficult as I people made it out to best beforehand. Have a realistic timeline.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

It’s possible to downsize from a two car garage to a 8′ x 12′ shed.

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11) Teresa Goldfarb

I thought I might want to supplement my retirement income by renting out an ADU. And even if I don’t need to supplement my income, at some point, I think my heirs (daughter and granddaughter) will find it very helpful.

ADU Tour Organizer’s note: This ADU is still under construction. This ADU features a legal sleeping loft and ladder access, which is a new building option adopted by 2017 state legislation that has particular relevance to ADUs.

Type of ADUAttached ADU above a garage 
Architect/DesignerPatrick Donaldson and Tammy Dunn, Harka Architecture
General ContractorMitch Powell,  The Powell Group PDX
Heating Systemductless minisplit
Type of ADUAttached ADU above a garage 
Architect/DesignerPatrick Donaldson and Tammy Dunn, Harka Architecture
General ContractorMitch Powell,  The Powell Group PDX
Heating Systemductless minisplit
When did you start the design work?11/2017
When did you submit the plans to the City?7/2018
When did you start construction12/2018
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?6/2019
Total Square Footage507 sq ft plus 150 sq ft sleeping loft
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$226K
Cost/Square Foot 
Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)None
Other special project costsWe had to have the solar panels removed from the roof of my house, and we will have to have them re-installed on the roof of the ADU.
How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

I plan to use it first as a short term rental, later as a long term rental.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

I took Kol Peterson’s ADU class a few years ago, and a little less than a year ago, I hired an architect.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

No issues

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

I have not done the math. I don’t think it will be a great return on investment until the loan is paid off, but I will be happy if it just pays for itself.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

Patrick is a “green” architect. He included such features as extra strips of fir on the wall studs to accommodate significantly more insulation.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

Lots of windows, views

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

Well, it’s not finished yet, but so far, I think the overall design looks great, and I love all the natural light and how it’s rather like a tree house!

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

It blocks a lot of my view of my yard as seen from my bedroom window.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

Have a lawyer review the contract.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

It is a huge project and it has a lot of different moving parts and it can be daunting to coordinate them all.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

12) Ady Leverette and Chris Jones

The primary reason was to design a space that was just the right size and tailored exactly to our needs. In doing so, the ADU allowed us to have space for our blended family – everybody has the space they need and there are ample opportunities for both privacy and communal living.

Type of ADUDetached new construction
Architect/DesignerPlaceship, https://www.placeship.net/
General ContractorRuss Bartels, https://rmhbartels.net/
Heating Systemradiant hydronic

When did you start the design work?4/2016
When did you submit the plans to the City?3/2017
When did you start construction5/2017
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?4/2018

Total Square Footage800
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$235K
Cost/Square Foot294

Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)For our ADU, we estimate $10,000 for design work, plus $15,000 for interior finish work.
Other special project costsNone

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

Primary residence

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

Researched zoning code, looked at other projects, and met with planning staff at the City of Portland.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

Some BDS staff were very helpful, others were very difficult, and information was inconsistent. Permitting was one of the most stressful parts of the project.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

We are planning on living in the ADU for many years, so we were not concerned about short-term resale value. We made design decisions based on long-term needs and desires.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

The ADU has a high efficiency hydronic radiant floor heating system and heat recovery ventilator. We used dual flush toilet and high efficiency appliances. The insulation used is the BIBS system, which is one of the most efficient available.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

We love having the living area on the second floor. The abundant daylight and views into the tree canopy make you feel like you’re living in a treehouse. The design is so efficient and well thought out that 800 square feet never felt so spacious.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

We love how the ADU and house accommodates our blended family. It allows for privacy, conviviality and different daily routines. I (Ady) am proud of the personalized details and materials in the interior that I installed with my dad.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

We are happy all the design aspects.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

We would have asked the contractor for a more detailed estimate and bid.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

I am surprised how much interest the neighbors would take in the project.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

Assemble a great team (architect and contractor) to guide you through the process. Give yourself an emotional budget as well as a financial one.

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13)Trish Trout and Kat Trout

 

• Continue a four-generation tradition of living in community on Ash Street
• Increase the value of the property
• Provide for a safe affordable residence for Kat
• Allow Trish to age in place with Kat’s assistance.

Type of ADU

Detached new construction

Architect/Designer

Amanda Petretti, http://www.studiopetretti.com

General Contractor

Kevin Smith, www.taylorsmithsc.com

Heating System

ductless mini-split

When did you start the design work?

1/2018

When did you submit the plans to the City?

7/2018

When did you start construction

7/2018

When did you get your certificate of occupancy?

7/2019

Total Square Footage

330

Total Cost (including sweat equity)

$225K

Cost/Square Foot

$681

Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)

None

Other special project costs 
Certification & Energy ScoresEarth Advantage Platinum and EPS (pending)

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

As Kat’s primary residence.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

• Attended Kol Peterson’s workshop/tour “Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit on Your Property in Portland” in December 2017 and purchased “Back Door Revolution: the Definitive Guide to ADU Development”
• Met with financial planner
• Researched similar projects
• Consulted architect to determine project feasibility

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

None

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

• Property value appreciation
• Support for Trish as she ages in place
• Desirable location and residence for Kat

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

• Earth Advantage Gold Certified
• All LED high efficiency lighting
• High efficiency Energy Star appliances
• High efficiency Insulation R-38 + R23 Roxul
• ½” Rainsceen on the exterior under the siding
• High Efficiency Mini Split + On Demand Water Heater
• All FSC Certified Lumber
• Low VOC Paints and Adhesive

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

• Tall ceilings and light
• Gaining square footage in newly leveled and extended backyard
• Design incorporates ample storage (i.e. under bed platform)
• Custom design allows for personal preferences, i.e., higher counter tops

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

• Teamwork and good working relationship with our design and construction partners
• A design that reflects the personality of the owner and has lots of natural light.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

Overall we are happy with the result.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

• Understand that construction projects do not unfold in a straight line
• Even though ADUs are small structures, they still require adherence to all building regulations, laws and codes.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

No real surprises, but we learned a lot about the design/build process itself and working with the City of Portland.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

• Allow 3-6 months longer than you anticipate
• Budget at least 20% more for this complex project
• Do your own research
• Be open to suggestions and ideas you may not have thought about

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14) Joe Mansfield and Raechel Frogner

The idea came about after looking into building a large elevated deck off of our house kitchen. We realized that the space under the deck would’ve been largely wasted which gave us the idea to build an ADU with a rooftop deck.

Type of ADU

attached, new construction

Architect/Designer

Marty Buckenmeyer, http://www.buckenmeyerllc.com

General Contractor

Joe Mansfield

Heating System

ductless mini-split

When did you start the design work?

5/2015

When did you submit the plans to the City?

9/2016

When did you start construction

10/2016

When did you get your certificate of occupancy?

10/2017

Total Square Footage

439

Total Cost (including sweat equity)

$216K

Cost/Square Foot

$492

Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)

$40K

Other special project costsThe rooftop deck above the ADU which is accessed from the main house required the excavation of 20+ dump truck loads of earth to get 9 1/2′ ceiling height in the ADU living space. ($10K)

 

 

 

This also necessitated a flat roof which was double the cost of a pitched roof. ($10K).

The 16′ x 8′ western windows glass wall is one of our favorite features of the space ($13K) .

Custom milled IPE shiplap siding is much more expensive than cedar but lasts 70 years w/out staining or painting. ($5K).

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

We originally planned on living full time in the ADU, but due to a change of plans, we’ve been renting it short term.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

We did several organized tours including: Portland Modern Homes, Seattle Modern Homes, and of course the Portland ADU Tour. We also took the ADU class.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

None

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

We’re hoping our investment pays off in under 5 years which it’s on track for.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

Our guest house has a green roof which helps with storm water run-off and adds insulation and UV protection to the roof.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

We’re thrilled with how the combination of materials works together in and outside of the space. The ample ceiling height and 16′ x 8′ window wall make the space feel much larger than on paper.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

I’m proud that I was able to GC the build in under a year without making too many mistakes for my first build. We love the way the window wall and exterior cedar and aluminum slat sliders interface with neighborhood life while retaining some privacy for guests in the ADU living area. Using manufacturing waste (richlite from my iphone case business) to tile the bathroom 😀

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

We were unable to use a gas on demand water heater due to inadequate venting clearances and instead have a large electric tank in the closet. We weren’t able to fit the originally planned ducted (hidden in closet drop ceiling) mini splits and instead have 2 ductless units on the walls. There are now recessed in-ceiling models available.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

We would have integrated solar power into the project and in-slab radiant heating.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

The unseasonably cold winter really slowed down our initial concrete pours as we couldn’t pour below freezing. Custom site building is incredibly wasteful which I saw everyday as I was hauling the debris to the junk yard.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

Educate yourself in the most current building science (I highly recommend Matt Risinger’s Youtube Channel). Get bids from at least 3 builders if you’re going to hire a GC ( I decided to GC as every bid was way outside of our budget ). Investigate prefab options for the waste/time savings.

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15) Robert Liberty and Khanh Tran

1. Retirement income
2. Increase affordable housing supply in Portland
3. Professional education

Type of ADUbasement conversion
Architect/DesignerNicholas Papaefthimiou, infillpdx.com
General ContractorMarsh LLC Renovations and Construction, https://www.buildwithmarsh.com/
Heating Systemductless mini-split

When did you start the design work?2/2018
When did you submit the plans to the City?6/2018
When did you start construction3/2019
When did you get your certificate of occupancy?6/2019

Total Square Footage391
Total Cost (including sweat equity)$74K
Cost/Square Foot$189

Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)Worked on adjustment paperwork,
some window well excavation
($1K)
Other special project costsLand use adjustment ($3K)
 

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

long-term rental or possibly to students, below-market rent if possible

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

(1) Worked for 13 years as a land use attorney and hearings officer; (2) Initiated ADU promotion collaboration project at Portland State University in August 2016; (3) attended Kol Peterson’s ADU training class (very helpful).

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

A parking adjustment was required which resulted in the closure of the curb cut for the parking space, (about $5,000 in additional costs). In addition the standard prohibiting an exterior door on the same plane as the front facade meant the loss of about 40 square feet of interior space. However, I have concluded that the results of these requirements improved the final design and, in the case of the parking, it was good public policy.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

I compare the gross and net return from this investment to alternative investments of my savings for retirement and the ADU is far superior. However, that is partly true because about 85% of the cost of the project was from savings. If I had to finance the whole thing with a HELOC for example, the return would not be as good.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

More energy efficient water heater and heating system. It was not a special green design but  the insulation for the unit will reduce the amount of natural gas used for heating the main residence.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

1. How much natural light there is for a basement ADU.
2. The opportunity to create a private walled garden for the tenant. (This is a project I will carry out over the summer of 2019.)

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

Keeping costs down.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

It was unavoidable, but we have much less basement storage space and that space is awkwardly arranged in an “L” around the furnace.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

1. Think more about coordinating and budgeting for the ADU project with other needed repairs and renovations for the main house.
2. Save additional money on appliances for the ADU and to replace the existing washer dryer (necessitated by reduced basement area) by using the time during construction to find high quality used appliances for the unit.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

The absurdity, in our case, of the initially proposed tree root protection requirements, which fortunately city staff were very willing to adjust.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

The answers to the prior questions contain the suggestions I would offer.

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16) Joshua & Keely Montgomery

Our property (1.5 lots) has always lent itself well to having an ADU and it had been an interest of ours for a long time. In 2016/2017, we were at a point where we would either commit to staying in our current home, or relocate elsewhere. At that time, we refinanced in order to start the process of moving. After spending a year looking at other properties, we kept coming back the agreement that we loved our current home and didn’t want to leave. Ultimately, the decision was made to stay put and take the cash out from our refi and invest it toward building the ADU in hopes to bring in revenue to allow more flexibility in our family life. As two parents who worked VERY full time during the first several years of our children’s lives, we had invested heavily in childcare and felt like we were missing so much out of these special early childhood years. The income on our ADU has allowed for mom to cut back significantly at work and be more available to raise our two children.

ADU Tour Organizer’s note: This ADU has notable landscape design, which is written about extensively here

Type of ADU

Detached new construction

Architect/Designer

Propel Studio https://www.propelstudio.com

General Contractor

Shelter Solutions, LLC https://www.shelter-solutions.net

Heating System

ductless minisplit

When did you start the design work?

8/2017

When did you submit the plans to the City?

11/2017

When did you start construction

1/2018

When did you get your certificate of occupancy?

5/2018

Total Square Footage

491 sq ft

Total Cost (including sweat equity)$177K
Cost/Square Foot

$360

 

Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)

$0K

Other special project costsLandscape Design ($25k) (This figure not included in total above)

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

At the moment, we are using the space as a short-term rental to help us pay for funding of building the ADU + a place for friends and family to stay while visiting. We appreciate the flexibility of use and expect we will use it in every possible way into the future – long-term rental, age in place, housing aging parents, and personal use to entertain and welcome family to stay.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

Years before we made the final decision to build, we had taken an abbreviated course by Kol Peterson, which proved to be very eye opening and useful. We also attended an ADU tour which gave us ideas on which components we wanted to include in the design for our own ADU. Aside from that, we spent countless hours on the internet (accessorydwellings.org among the resources) doing research.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

I would not say there were significant issues, but in the start of the project, there was a protected tree drawn into the plans that we had actually planned to remove as part of our re-landscaping design. The tree was not large but would end up requiring a fenced barrier that would have reduced ease of construction access. It took several photos and some back and forth on Joe’s part (Shelter Solutions, LLC) visiting the city permits office to approve the removal of the tree and the adjustment to the plans. We are grateful, as we love our newly landscaped space now.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

Now that we have almost made it through one year with our ADU built and rented, and having been able to file taxes for the 1st year, we can safely say we think the investment was worth while — as long as we choose not to move. Later this year, our property taxes will be reassessed to include the ADU so we may have a new answer to this question after that, but we hope our answer will be the same.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

Compared to our 1920’s home, the ADU is so much more efficient in design and build. Our architect chose to include advanced framing and blown in insulation – which alone makes a huge difference in keeping the temperature inside pleasant without use of too much energy to heat and cool. Otherwise, we chose energy star appliances.

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

The contributions toward the overall vision of the project by Propel Studio, Shelter Solutions, and Haven Garden Design, all honored the fundamental list of what was important to us and together create a stunning first look when you enter into the property and see the ADU for the first time. The way our landscape designer – Joel of Haven Garden Design – created a nice sense of flow with the pathways and plantings, along with privacy fencing has been a crucial component in making the ADU work within the confines of our backyard. All of this accents the façade of the building with the tall roof with cedar tongue and groove under-siding contrasted by the darker color of the painted exterior siding turned out better than we imagined.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

Our favorite elements are the exterior facade and pitched shed-style roof with cedar under-siding, mixed with the exterior lighting to accent the space. The simplicity and functionality of the interior space is also something we feel so happy with.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

The only thing we regret not including in the design is some type of exterior storage space attached to the ADU where we could store supplies and other items. If someone is ever living in the ADU full-time, storage space will definitely be a challenge unless we build something for that purpose.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

We were extremely lucky to have designers and builders who we really enjoyed working with. When you are working together on a project that is in your backyard, you definitely want to find people with good integrity and professional in what they do. We were lucky to find that in our team and highly recommend them to all.

Another consideration we have had in retrospect is — if your architect is game for it – bringing your builder into the fold sooner so he/she can help make decisions tied to most current rates of costs for building supplies to stay within the parameters of your budget.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

The realization of the true market rates in Portland regarding cost per square footage to build our ADU was a huge surprise. This blindside forced us to approach our project financing in new ways. We had been under the impression we would be able to design and build the ADU for $120k. Ultimately, we spent about $200k on everything if we include landscaping and furnishing.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

We were extremely lucky to have designers and builders who we really enjoyed working with. When you are working together on a project that is in your backyard, you definitely want to find people with good integrity and professional in what they do. We were lucky to find that in our team and highly recommend them to all.

Another consideration we have had in retrospect is — if your architect is game for it – bringing your builder into the folder sooner so he/she can help make decisions tied to most current rates of costs for building supplies to stay within the parameters of your budget.

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17) Cynthia Jimes

For passive income, and because I agree with the philosophy around tiny homes and ADUs.

ADU Tour Organizer’s note: This is the first pre-fab ADU featured on the ADU Tour. 

Type of ADU

Detached new construction

Architect/Designer

Dweller, Inc., Dweller.com

General Contractor

Dweller, Inc., Dweller.com

Heating System

ductless minisplit

When did you start the design work?

11/2018

When did you submit the plans to the City?

12/2018

When did you start construction

2/2019

When did you get your certificate of occupancy?

5/2019

Total Square Footage

448 sq ft

Total Cost (including sweat equity)$128K
Cost/Square Foot

$258

 

Sweat Equity estimate (part of the “Total Cost” listed above)

$0K

Other special project costs

Sewer repair ($3K).

Garage removal ($3K).

When digging to connect into my sewage system, it was discovered that I needed repair work on my sewage line, which cost an unexpected $3200. Also, after the ADU was installed, it took up much more visual space in my backyard than I had envisioned. I thus decided to remove my dilapidated free-standing garage to open up the backyard more, at a cost of $3000. 

How are you using the ADU now, or how will you be using ADU once it’s complete?

I do not own the ADU; instead I chose Dweller’s ground lease option, where I am paid a portion of the rental income in exchange for Dweller’s use the space on my lot that the ADU sits on.

What did you do to prepare for the ADU development process?

Visited Portland’s housing development office multiple times, consulted with Kol Peterson at Accessory Dwelling Strategies, explored costs through cost calculators found online, researched, read, and weighed all options before deciding on the ground lease model with Dweller.

Describe your experience working with BDS to get your project approved.

No issues.

How do you think about the ‘return on your investment’ for this ADU?

It will be passive income for me, since I am working under a ground lease model and did not purchase the ADU or contribute to the build costs. I will likely purchase the ADU from Dweller in the future, and will revisit the RIO at that time.

Besides its small size, what green features did you include in your design?

None

What design aspect of your ADU are you most happy with?

The simplicity of it. Also, Dweller offers a nice set of options for finishings that I was able to choose from.

What element of your ADU, or part the development process and outcome, are you most proud of?

That I finally completed this project that I have been researching for four years.

What design aspect of your ADU are you least happy with?

I would have loved more windows and larger windows on the ADU; I also prefer solid wood floors and doors, but I understand that those would have been cost prohibitive.

What would you do differently, if you were to start over?

Given that I’m a visual person, I’d pay more attention and plan better with regard to how the ADU will look in my yard, next to the other buildings on my lot. This includes simple considerations like the paint finishes on the ADU, the height of the fence that surrounds the ADU, and how to best integrate it into my yard.

What was the most surprising thing you learned during your design/build process?

How smooth the process was to work with Dweller.

What advice would you offer someone else building the same kind of ADU?

Even if you have time and energy to spend on the DIY aspects of the ADU project, I’d recommend working with a company that manages the process from start to end.

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